My Trip To Paris (And Champagne) By Alison

There’s no conversation I love more than when one of friends tells me that they’re off to Paris. OK, there is: the conversation we have when they get back full of stories from my hometown and appreciation for it. So I was thrilled when my friend Alison of Bon Vivant DC told me she was stopping in Paris in between visits to Portugal and Champagne. OK, I was jealous too… but thrilled mostly. Alison runs a wine consulting business so I knew she’d have a fabulous trip. Here’s an overview of how it went, in Alison’s own words.

Alison Marriott in Champagne

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS

Paris has always been my favorite city, so when I found myself with five days between a vacation in Portugal and a weeklong industry event in Champagne, my choice of where to go in between these two stops was an easy one.  Besides its proximity to Champagne, Paris was an obvious choice for my extended ‘layover’ as I have several friends and acquaintances there. Oh, and the food.  (Doesn’t everyone travel for food?!)

HOW I GOT THERE

I was already in Portugal and flew I from Madeira into Paris’ Orly airport. On the way back, I took a direct flight from Charles de Gaulle to Dulles. 

WHERE I STAYED

I made a return visit to the Relais St. Sulpice, a small luxury boutique hotel ideally situated in the heart of Saint Germain. It’s on a quiet street that’s easily accessed by metro and walkable to many of my favorite sites in Paris including the Latin Quarter, l’Ile de la Cité, the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s reasonably priced, with infinitely comfortable beds, and the lobby has a charming self serve bar and small library where you can read or relax.

BEST THING I ATE

One of my favorite things about Paris truly is the food- pâté, cheese, the bread, croissants… you name it, I love it! Although I had several fancier meals, café culture is one of my favorite things about Paris, and where I had one of my most memorable meals on this trip.  Café Bonaparte is in quite a touristy stretch of rue St. Germain, within a stone’s throw of the more famous Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. While no means a bargain, it beats the prices of its more famous brethren with the same amazing people-watching this neighborhood is perfectly suited for. The atmosphere is as quintessentially Parisian as it gets! It was one of the only dinners that I ate alone, and so its convenience to my hotel was paramount. Big thanks to Cécile of The Worldly Bite for this great suggestion!

Champagne at Cafe Bonaparte

I also adored having crêpes and Britany cider out of traditional ceramic bowls with Laetitia’s mom at Breizh Café, right behind the Picasso Museum in the Marais! It’s a place I can imagine returning again and again to try different combinations.

Lastly, I had a lovely time picnicking along the Seine with my dear friend Tanisha of Girl Meets Glass. We picked up everything we needed at the local Monoprix and were loaded down with an astounding array of cheeses, tapenade, fruit, bread, charcuterie and a few bottles of wine for less than 30€! As we made our way over to a quai on the Seine, the fading sun cast beautiful light and shadows over the city.  After pulling the cork on a bottle of Provençal rosé we watched the lights illuminate Notre Dame across the river – which is perhaps most impressive seen at night.

BEST FREE ACTIVITY 

Though pretty touristy, taking in the Eiffel Tower at night tops this list. Feel free to take a bottle of wine and settle in for the light show, which takes place at the top of every hour.

La Tour Eiffel

I also adore wandering around the jardin du Luxembourg.  It’s one of the loveliest spots in Paris, particularly in the spring, when thousands of tulips are in bloom. 

The Luxembourg Garden in the spring

Finally not technically free but at 3.30€, practically: the gardens at the Rodin Museum. Skip the pricier interior to take in the sculptor’s most famous works set amidst a beautiful park devoid of the crowds and tour groups that throng most large museums. This has to be one of the most under-rated sites in Paris! 

WORTH THE SPLURGE 

I was in France to attend the industry only Printemps des Champagnes series of tastings as I prepare to host DC’s first Champagne Week, which will take place in early November. What most people don’t realize is how very easy it is to visit Champagne as a day trip from Paris. The TGV train will get you from Gare du Nord to the center of Reims in a mere 40 minutes.  From there, it’s easy to visit the stunning Cathedral of Reims and pop into a few of the notable champagne houses.  Taittinger has spectacular tours and beautiful cellars. Travelers who venture a bit further into the countryside (which does require a car) are rewarded with beautiful scenery and small, grower champagne houses. Just be sure to make an appointment! 

Caves in Reims

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS 

1) Don’t over schedule!  Remember to schedule time to relax, peruse the charming shops, explore hidden courtyards, and lounge in any number of the lovely parks. Take time to soak in the city while relaxing at a picturesque cafe over a mid afternoon pastry. 

2) If it’s your first trip to Paris, pick a few sites that are most important to see and really spend some time enjoying them. My own “Top 5 Must Sees” are the Sainte Chapelle, hidden inside France’s Palais de Justice,  the light show at the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Sculpture Gardens, the Musée D’Orsay, and the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

La Sainte Chapelle

3) Dress up and learn a few French words. There are a few things that can help you blend in a bit and not stand out as an American (or as a tourist) really.  We typically dress more casually than our Parisian counterparts so like to trade tennis shoes for driving loafers and throw on a blazer over jeans. Though you may not be mistaken for a local, dressing up just a bit commands respect and you won’t look the part of the dreaded “Ugly American.” Also, even though my French is abysmal, I’ve mastered a few key phrases like “thank you” (merci), “excuse me” (pardon), “please” (s’il vous plaît), “hello” (bonjour.) Parisians really appreciate the effort and you’ll find that many are actually eager to practice their english with you too!

Though I’ve been to Paris many times, there are still sites that I’ve never made it to- and that’s OK!  Part of the charm of this beautiful city is embracing the Parisian joie de vivre, luxuriating in the experiences you DO choose to enjoy. I can’t wait to visit the flea markets, more museums, and perhaps the Catacombes or nearby Giverny on my next visit, but you can bet I’ll still find plenty of time to enjoy a glass of champagne, pâté, and people watching – which will always top my list of favorite things to do in Paris!

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Alison Marriott of Bon Vivant DCAbout the author: Alison and I met through mutual friends and a common love of of all things vino. She runs her own wine consultancy Bon Vivant DC and is currently hard at work planning the city’s first Champagne Week, with a Grand Tasting planned on November 9th. There will also be a champagne pairing dinner held at Ripple, and custom flights of champagne around town. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.dcchampagneweek.com. Yep, that’s the week of the election and the perfect opportunity to celebrate your candidate’s victory — or plot your theoretical move to Paris over the world’s finest bubbles.

Guest Post ~ My Trip to Paris by Ashley

389176_10100620880866639_2081008904_nNeither David nor I can remember how we agreed that Paris would be our honeymoon location. And truthfully, it never occurred to either of us as being cliché (being the city of love and all). The truth is, we’re city people, and we like to visit other cities, and we both took enough years of high school and college French that we felt it needed to serve some purpose.

We flew to Paris a few days after our wedding, with only the vaguest ideas of what we would do or see. We had secured our apartment via AirBnB, a great little studio in Le Marais, exchanged our dollars for Euros and headed off on Iceland Air. When we got there we were surprised that Paris seemed trapped in time. For me, it was romantic to see metro trains right out of my understanding of the 1940’s. There seemed to be less automation, more stairs, and definitely fewer people using smart phones. For David, it was a thoughtful collision of the new (La Défense) and the old (“What do you mean they don’t accept our credit cards?”). The biggest adjustment? The lack of air conditioning on our fifth floor walk up–and the communal bathroom.

Either way, a trip to Paris is an incredible experience and one you’re not soon to forget–no matter which century you prefer. Here are some of the sights we loved and tips we learned doing our Parisian honeymoon:

1. Grab a Vélib’. Paris was one of the first city to implement a large-scale bikeshare program and it’s a great way to get around without losing out on any of the sights.  You will need to buy your pass online since the Vélib self-serving stations don’t take American credit cards.

Velib, paris velib, paris bikeshare, biking in paris

2. We loved Caffe Boboli and Bistro La Coopérative. The Cooperative serves traditional Southwestern food close to the Louvre Museum, but without the tourist mark-ups (or crowds) of other establishments nearby. Caffe Boboli is this tiny Italian restaurant with fewer than 10 seats; the owner serves your meal.

3. Visit the farmers’/merchant market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, near the Bastille on Sunday mornings (8AM-1PM, metro: Breguet Sabin or Bastille.) If the weather is nice, you can buy everything you need (but especially cheese, olives, cured meats etc.) for a picnic. Then grab a bottle of wine and improvise a meal by the Seine. Unlike in Washington, there are no such things as open container laws in Paris.

marche de la Bastille, paris farmers' market, bastille farmers market

4. Take a cooking class. I tried a croissant-making class at (American-expat owned) La Cuisine Paris, and took home more than we could eat!

5. Select your museums wisely. The museum pass was helpful if you really enjoy museums and plan to make them a dedicated part of your trip. But if you’re not a big museum person, don’t worry about it. And the Mona Lisa…eh. We visited the Centre Pompidou which has great modern art. Make sure you get in the entrance line and not the line for the library-we stood in line for an hour before realizing we were in the wrong one. Don’t miss the the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain nearby too. We also made a full day excursion to Versailles, rented a rowboat and leisurely strolled through the gardens. If the weather is nice it’s definitely worth the quick RER ride.

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6. We loved the view from Arc de Triomphe more than the Eiffel Tower. Then again, I’m terribly afraid of heights. If you want to save money (and a few hours), you can elect to walk up the Eiffel Tower via stairs.

7. Stroll up to Berthillon’s on the Ile St Louis. The celebrated glacier has many retailers behind Notre Dame, and there’s typically always a small line, waiting not-so-patiently for the best ice cream in the city.

berthillon, ice cream paris, best ice cream in paris

8. We took a fun wine tasting class at O-Chateau. Their wine pours are generous and the knowledge was invaluable-we learned that a high-dollar bottle of wine rarely tastes different than a more reasonably priced bottle of wine. We also learned a great deal about the the flavors you can expect from specific regions of France.

9.  The city of Paris spends a small fortune of their taxpayers’ euros lighting up the monuments at night and one of the most convenient way to appreciate them is on a boat tour of the city at night.  There are several offering dinner or drinks too.

10. Sacré Coeur and the surrounding neighborhood are a lovely afternoon excursion but watch out for pick-pockets and all their tricks!

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Last but not least, take the time to enjoy the city. You’ll never have the time to see everything so don’t stress out trying.

577526_10100624987931049_1043153038_nAbout the author: Ashley and David were married in May, 2012 in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC. Following their honeymoon in Paris, they welcomed a sweet puppy named Jack into their lives. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ashley through our mutual love of DC-city life and our involvement with the local blog Borderstan. I can’t remember if I suggested slash ordered that she gets ice cream at Berthillon before she headed out to Paris, but either way, I most definitely agree with that tip. Berthillon is the best. Period 😉 For more on Ashley, you can read her blog Metropoetrylis and follow @arlusk on twitter. 

Guest Post ~ My Trip to Paris by Cecile

Gertrude Stein once said “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” I couldn’t agree more! When I am in Paris, I feel very much at home and become une petite Parisienne. Of course, it helps that my father is a francophile and my mother is, well, une vraie Parisienne. She used to live near the picturesque Place des Vosges and I grew up hearing all about Paris, its culture and its fashion. I’m lucky that I get to visit about once a year, and I’m thrilled to share with you a few of the things I love the most about my hometown…

… starting with fashion. French women always manage to look effortlessly chic, elegantly maneuvering the cobblestone streets of le Marais in their Louboutins and expertly wrapping a Hermès scarf around their necks. But all French women, myself included, know that the base of any great outfit is what only a select few people get to see: their unmentionables. French lingerie is typically designed for women by women and it shows! You can find a few good French brands in D.C. at Coup de Foudre on E Street, for example. But when I head to Paris, I love picking out perfectly fitted colorful pieces at Cadolle, the designer credited with inventing the bra (4 rue Cambon) or at Chantal Tomass (211 rue St-Honoré, 1er). Since those will set you back a bunch of euros,  I also love shopping at more budget-friendly Princesse Tam-Tam. The brand targets a younger crowd with affordable, fun, contemporary lingerie. It’s also a chain with locations pretty much all over Paris so you’re bound to come across one while exploring the city.

Another hidden yet important element of a French woman’s style is her fragrance. Perfume has been one of my passions since I pursued an MBA in luxury goods with a concentration in perfume in Monaco. Perfumes define your personality, whether it is fresh and fun, romantic or sensual, what better way to discover this than in Paris? Visiting perfume boutiques such as Annick Goutal (14 rue de Castiglione, 1erand Chanel (31 rue Cambon, 1er) will help you determine whether you are a Petite Cherie or more of an Allure Sensuelle. You can also visit Romano Ricci (yes, he’s related to Nina Ricci…)’s new concept store Nose (20 rue Bachaumont, 2eme) to get a tailored scent assessment. Finally, a sensory tour of Paris wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ateliers Parfum Guerlain’s flagship store. Conveniently located on the Champs Elysees (68 Avenue des Champs Élysées, 8eme), the boutique dates back to 1912 and features a shimmering art-deco interior that will transport you to the famous avenue’s most glorious days, before H&M and Abercombie and Fitch moved in.
Beyond shopping, Paris is obviously known for its art and many museum. My favourite is le Musée d’Orsay, which houses an impressive collection of impressionist masterpieces in a former 19th century railway station. If you need to take a break from the Renoirs and bronze ballerinas, don’t miss the breathtaking views of the Seine from the fifth floor.
Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musée d'Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musee d’Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

 

Shopping, art… I guess I can’t write a post on the things I love about Paris without mentioning the food. I definitely indulge to the max when I am in the city. I can literally spend my days eating! I recommend people watching over le petit dej at Café Mabillon (164 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6eme); an afternoon break of delicious hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows at La Maison Angelina (226 Rue de Rivoli, 1er) or to-die-for macarons from Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme) and Ladurée (21 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme). If the weather allows, improvise a picnic Pont des Arts. The pedestrian footbridge with a wooden decking will l
ead you straight to the Louvre’s 
cour carrée and is a popular spot to take a break and soak up the romantic cityscape (and yes to leave a padlock too). I also love the inventive selection of eclairs at Fauchon (26 place de la Madeleine, 8eme). Rather than compete with the celebrated macarons makers, Fauchon decided to make a name for itself with another classic parisian pastry, which it declined in over 75 different flavors since 2003. During my last trip to Paris, I tried their foie gras eclair. It tastes as decadent as it sounds… And of course, there’s no shortage of options for lunch but I recently stumbled upon Le Petit Jacob (40 rue Jacob, 6eme), a cozy bio wine bar with simple, organic fare like charcuterie or tartines. I recommend it. 

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

As you can tell, Paris is near and dear to my heart. Do you have any favourite Paris spots? Feel free to share them in the comments… I’m already planning my next trip to Paris this summer and I always welcome recommendations!
About the author: born in India, Cecile grew up in Arlington, VA. She currently works in marketing for a French luxury hotel in the District. I had the pleasure of meeting up with her in Paris during her last trip there. And by meeting up with her, I mean we flew on the same plane and hung out everyday. I guess I should mention Cecile also happens to be one of my best friend and contributes witty postings to the French Twist DC facebook page 😉 Find her on twitter under the handle @cecileremington.

Guest Post: Rosemary and Grape Focaccia

There’s something I find so alluring about salty and sweet flavors coming together in concert. I’m pretty vocal about my favoritism toward the savory over the sugary, but every so often, the natural sweetness of fruit makes a guest appearance next to the warm, savory, salty, and crispy co-stars of a dish in a way so subtle–but at the same time striking–even I can’t argue against its place on the plate.

Such is the setting for my love affair with a favorite Giada De Laurentiis appetizer recipe for Rosemary and Grape Focaccia. So, naturally, when our fearless blogger, and one of my loveliest friends, asked me to bring a dish to snack during her most recent wine tasting, Rosemary Grape Focaccia it was. Let me short hand how I approach the recipe.

Rosemary and Grape Focaccia
Recipe adapted from Everyday Italian
Ingredients for 8 people:
Pizza dough (home-made or store bought)
Red & White Grapes
Shallot, sliced into thin rounds
1-2 Garlic Cloves, minced
Kosher Salt (Giada makes hers with sea salt)
a few sprigs of Rosemary, half minced, half whole leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Roll your dough out into a square or rectangle, and place it on your baking dish.
Sling three or four turns of olive oil over the dough, and spread it all over with palm of your hand. Sprinkle with kosher salt & spread minced garlic evenly.
Sprinkle your minced rosemary lightly over dough, then place your shallot rounds evenly all over, pushing them in slightly.
Giada keeps her grapes intact, but I cut mine in half, width-wise, and push them in a bit to add more sweetness to the dough.
Finally, take a few of your leftover whole leaves of rosemary and press them onto the dough here and there.
Follow your pizza dough package baking directions (usually around 10 minutes at 400 degrees), let cool, cut into squares and serve warm. Variations might include shredded prosciutto, crumbled Chevre cheese, or even a little heat by way of a dusting of cayenne pepper.

Finally, be sure to pair with great friends and a light, summery red.

melissaThis blog post is brought to you by guest blogger Melissa Lampkins.A food enthusiast, wine tasting bloodhound, & fellow lover of everything DC Philadelphia has to offer, Melissa is also one of the best cooks I know!